No place in German Village is more beautiful this time of year than Schiller Park, both for its historic and wooded layout and the help of countless volunteers.

No place in German Village is more beautiful this time of year than Schiller Park, both for its historic and wooded layout and the help of countless volunteers.

We all know the history of Schiller Park. Originally called Stewart's Grove, it hosted the Columbus Fourth of July celebration in 1830; it was the mustering point for Capt. Otto Zirkle's German regiment, which was headed to fight in the Mexican American War; it was the celebration spot when Capt. Zirkle's men returned safely in 1848; it was the Sangerfest location in 1852 for German singing societies from New York and St. Louis; it was the Ohio state fairgrounds in 1865 and 1866; and it was purchased by Columbus in 1871 and renamed City Park.

On July 4, 1891, a statue of Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was erected in the park by the prominent German community. Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian and dramatist and he was born in southwestern Germany, the same region from which many Columbus Germans emigrated.

In 1905, City Park was renamed Schiller Park. In June of that year, a celebration commemorating Schiller's death in 1805 began at Washington and Broad streets and 5,000 people marched to the newly renamed park for a day of festivities.

Thirteen years later in 1918, Schiller Park was renamed Washington Park in response to anti-German sentiments stoked by World War I. At this time, the South End also had a "Schiller Street" near the park. This, too, was changed and today's residents refer to that street as "Whittier." The park went by "Washington" until 1930, when it was once again renamed.

More recently, Schiller Park has hosted a couple of Oktoberfests in the 1960s, a neighborhood marathon party every fall, performances by the Actors' Theatre of Columbus, German Village Society family portraits, Easter egg hunts sponsored by the Southeast Lions and countless other small events that make our community turn round and round.

Still, the park serves as our collective backyard and I think it must be as loved today as it was in the 1830s when South Enders congregated in Stewart's Grove. That love is seen in our heavy use of the park, the many images of it that are used in various ways and, of course, the work we put into it.

Whether you're new or old to German Village, helping out in Schiller Park is a great way to meet new friends, get involved and get your hands dirty. Columbus takes great care to take great care of Schiller, but the recreation and parks staff members and their budget have been cut short dramatically over the years. In short, they can only do so much and since German Villagers expect the exceptional, it's up to us to fill in the gaps.

Consider this a call to action, like Capt. Zirkle's in the 1840s. We need your help getting Schiller Park ready for the season and looking its best. Please join us at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 28, in the picnic area. The Friends of Schiller Park group will be planting the corner gardens with plants from Nationwide Children's Hospital, Dill's Greenhouse and Fisher's Greenhouse. This year, the corner gardens were designed by Paul Soehnlen, the gifted designer who created the stunning Third Street entrance gardens the last few years.

This is an opportunity to help your neighborhood and see the fruits of that labor. Go for the camaraderie and know that your volunteer time will help make Schiller Park the showstopper it is each and every year.

Jody Graichen is director of historic preservation programs for the German Village Society.